Forget In-N-Out and Shake Shack — this popular restaurant from the South beats them

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Travis Lyles

As Americans, we obviously love food, and each region of the country has its own premier place.

The Northeast has Shake Shack, the West Coast has In-N-Out, and the Midwest has Culver’s.

The South, where I grew up, has Cook Out.

Cook Out is almost as synonymous with the South as sweet tea. The restaurant, founded in the late 1980s in Greensboro, North Carolina, is known for its unique Southern-style cheap food.

From great burgers to fantastic sides, Cook Out is one of those spots Southerners keep on their list of places to visit when they return home. The brand has 140 restaurants, with plans to expand.

Living in New York, I knew I had to take the time and go once I was back. When you pay – sometimes – $15 for a burger up North, it’s nice to get back to the prices that don’t destroy your wallet.

That’s what makes it so great. You can eat and be full for just under $5 – something that you can’t say about the majority of places. Cook Out also doesn’t sacrifice quality. They feature never-frozen ingredients that taste fresh.

So when I ventured home to Newport News, Virginia, I made it back to the restaurant the region holds so dear.

Keep scrolling to see my journey at one of the best fast-food places the South has to offer.


I had been looking forward to a visit back to Cook Out for months. When I arrived, my face lit up. You can smell the incredible burgers from down the street, so my stomach knew happiness was near.

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I attempted to go through the drive-thru, but it was too packed. Cook Out is popular and the line of cars is constantly wrapped all the way around the building.

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So I decided to go inside. Before I got in the door, I was reminded just how many milkshakes Cook Out has. Yes, you’re reading that right.

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When I got inside, to my surprise, it was pretty empty.

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One thing that’s great about this Cook Out is that it has a large indoor space. Most of the original restaurants were outside only. As you can see, they really have a Southern feel.

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There is a lot of space inside — a luxury I missed living up North and eating in small, crowded restaurants.

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Cook Out basically has anything you could want. From amazing pork barbecue to hot dogs, one visit is not enough.

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Your best bet is a famous Cook Out Tray. No matter what you get, it’s an incredible deal. You can pick an entree, two sides, and a drink for less than $5.

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Travis Lyles

I decided to get two trays for some variety. As you can see, it’s truly a great deal. I also got a milkshake!

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For my first tray, I got a double burger, fries, and a quesadilla.

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The burger is great. It’s simple but incredible. They cook their food with what they call “outdoor style,” which really adds a lot of flavor.

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As you can see, I really enjoyed the burger!

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The quesadilla is always my favorite. It’s a classic cheesy quesadilla that feels light. It’s the perfect complement to the other sides.


The fries are great, too. They are crispy and not too salty.

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The second tray featured Cook Out’s iconic spicy chicken sandwich. It’s not too spicy, though. It’s no Chick-fil-A, but it’s good.

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I knew I had to get the onion rings and hush puppies as my two sides. They are pure greasy Southern goodness. If you’re trying to eat healthy, Cook Out doesn’t offer a ton of options, but they do have wraps and salads.

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The hush puppies are crispy on the outside, but the inside melts in your mouth. I realized how much I missed them.

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And then, of course, there is the drink Cook Out is known for, Cheerwine. Any Southerner can tell you how truly amazing it is.

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It’s like a better version of Cherry Coke and a bit sweeter. A lot of people get Cheerwine floats, which are amazing.

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The milkshake list is impressive. You can also mix and match any of the flavors to make your favorite unique concoction.

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I got the strawberry cheesecake. It was good but sweet. It was impressive how much it actually tasted like cheesecake.

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That’s a lot of food.

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I was stuffed.

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In the end, Shake Shack and In-N-Out are great, but Cook Out’s prices raise it to the top without sacrificing the quality of the food. It all depends on what you want. Cook Out offers a different style of burgers and sides and more options. Like any true Southerner, Cook Out would be my choice every time!

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